ESEA Waiver

NEW: FY21 ESEA Waivers in Response to COVID-19

Due to the continued extraordinary circumstances created by the COVID-19 pandemic and unprecedented challenges students, educators, staff, and schools are facing during the 2020-21 school year; the U.S. Department of Education (ED) is offering each State educational agency (SEA) the opportunity to request waivers that will afford additional fiscal flexibility for certain funds received under the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 (ESEA). ED recognizes it may not be possible to obligate these funds on a timely and responsible basis due to several factors.

In response, ED  is offering a waiver for an SEA to be able to approve a local educational agency (LEA) to carry over more than 15 percent of its fiscal year (FY) 2021 Title I, Part A funds (i.e., the Title I, Part A funds that will become carryover funds on October 1, 2021), even if the LEA has received a waiver from its SEA to exceed this limitation for its FY19 or FY20 Title I, Part A funds. Second, ED is offering flexibility to each SEA to be able to extend for itself and its subgrantees the period of availability of FY20 funds for programs included in the State’s consolidated State plan to allow additional time to obligate those funds. This is the same waiver flexibility ED offered to states last year.

Pursuant to the authority under ESEA § 8401, the Tennessee Department of Education will be providing LEAs the opportunity to request waivers of the following provisions:

·         Section 1127(b) of Title I, Part A of the ESEA so that your LEA may waive, more than once every three years, if necessary, the 15 percent carryover limitation in ESEA § 1127(a) for FY21 Title I, Part A funds.

·         Section 421(b) of the General Education Provisions Act (GEPA) to extend the period of availability of FY20 funds until Sept. 30, 2022.

Prior to submitting a waiver request, ESEA § 8401(b)(3)(A) requires an SEA to provide the public and interested LEAs notice and a reasonable time for them to comment in the manner in which the SEA customarily provides notice and the opportunity to comment to the public. All stakeholders have until July 25, 2021 to provide feedback via the survey available here:

Questions regarding this waiver and request for public comment can be addressed to

Under ESEA Flexibility, states must renew their current waiver request in order continue the provisions of their accountability models. We submitted the ESEA Waiver Renewal Application to the USED on March 31, 2015. USED approved our application for a four-year renewal on July 23, 2015.

We engaged a diverse group of stakeholders across the state who provided feedback at numerous stages of system development. The final proposal reflects this feedback. Stakeholders included:

TOSS working group of superintendents; Local district assessment and accountability personnel; All Directors of Schools via direct solicitation and feedback to Commissioner; Planning & Monitoring Advisory Committee (Committee of Practitioners); Community partners including Urban League and SCORE; CORE regional directors and data analysts; TDOE senior leadership team and other divisions, including Special Populations; General public through the public comment period.

Feedback from USED was overwhelmingly positive and maintained all key provisions of application. 

  1. USED acknowledged and approved affirmative shift to a focus on improvement and establishing multiple pathways for districts to demonstrate progress toward goals. Key updates that were approved include:
    1. Elimination of subgroup improvement test based on nine categories and focus on four key subgroups: Black, Hispanic, & Native American (BHN); economically disadvantaged (ED); English language learners (ELL); and students with disabilities (SWD). 
    2. Adjustment to every test taker provision to consider students in accountability who are present for at least 60% of instructional year.
    3. Grade band AMO targets (versus individual grades).
    4. Inclusion of post-secondary metrics (ACT composite and subject-specific benchmarks)
    5. Updated criteria for priority and focus school exit, which includes opportunities for schools that demonstrate significant improvement to exit the status after one or two years.  
  2. Proposed change to include accelerated middle school students in both middle and high school accountability metrics was rejected, as were proposals to extend timeline for including some English language learners (ELL) in ELA testing and excluding medically fragile students from graduation rate calculations. 
    1. The TDOE will revisit ELL proposal based on further discussion with stakeholders and continued conversation with USED. 

Some of the key similarities between the current and proposed systems:

  1. Achievement – We are still focused on growth in achievement for all students.  Absolute achievement alone is not sufficient.
  2. Gap Closure – All means all. We expect faster growth for the lowest achieving students.
  3. Content focus on Reading, Math, and Graduation Rate – Including all HS EOCs (English I/II/III and Algebra I/II & Geometry OR Integrated Math I/II/III); 3-5/6-8 RLA and Math; and Graduation Rate.

Some of the key differences between the current and proposed systems:

  1. Recognition of Incremental Progress – Measures improvement based on a scale rather than binary met/miss targets.  Provides LEAs detailed information in a performance “heat map” to highlight areas of strength and opportunities for improvement.
  2. Inclusion of Postsecondary Readiness Metrics – Incorporates ACT composite results as a content area, in addition to using ACT subject test scores to demonstrate proficiency for students taking advanced coursework (e.g. AP, IB, or dual credit) in their junior year. 
  3. Focus on Lowest Achieving Students – Acknowledges student progress from below basic to basic.
  4. Gap Closure Metric – Gap closure targets based on growth of the subgroup versus direct comparison to non-subgroup peers.
  5. Multiple Pathways to Success – Includes three pathways to demonstrate performance for both Achievement and Gap Closure components, instead of single target and potential “safe harbors.”
  6. District Designations – Eliminates In Need of Subgroup Improvement and Intermediate designations.  Four proposed designations include In Need of Improvement, Progressing, Achieving, and Exemplary.